Personal Statement

Undoubtedly, this project has enabled me to delve deep into the very serious problem that is the school-to-prison pipeline. In light of the recent events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other men of color, this issue of finding justice for individuals that are disadvantaged by the system seems ever more pressing. These men of color, along with individuals with disabilities, are among those that are disproportionately harmed by the school-to-prison pipeline. Grassroots organizers and social media advocates in urban communities across America recognize that this injustice must end and are fighting back against a system that is constantly oppressing them. This project has exposed me to the many ways that these activists are attacking this injustice at the place where much of the problem begins: the urban public school system.

At the beginning of this project, I had doubts about the power of grassroots organizing to enact real change. To me, the school-to-prison pipeline was a result of the systemic racism and discrimination that pervades our nation and was a problem way too large for grassroots advocates to have a chance at changing. However, while I was correct in viewing the school-to-prison pipeline as a huge problem, I was very wrong in my belief that nothing could be done from the bottom-up to effectively address this issue.

This project has opened my eyes to the power of grassroots groups and advocates to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Grassroots organizers have been able to put a stop to harsh zero tolerance policies that have sent disadvantaged youths down the pipeline toward incarceration. Moreover, they have effectively limited the use of exclusionary disciplinary practices while successfully advocating for more restorative approaches. Additionally, grassroots advocates have been able to make their voices heard both within their local schools and at the state-level, as many groups have been able to successfully push for legislation and policy changes at the state-level in order to stop the flow from school to prison.

It is an understatement to say that I am impressed with the work that these grassroots organizers have been able to do in addressing this issue. Not only have they been able to affect change on the local level and in their urban communities, but many of these groups have also been able to expand their efforts to affect change on a state-wide level. The efforts and the accomplishments of these organizers surely speak volumes about the powerful impact that a group of people who are passionate about an issue can have.

What also inspired me about this project was the ability of grassroots advocates to use social media to spread the word about the school-to-prison pipeline. Undoubtedly, social media has become a large facet in the lives of many Americans. From Facebook, to Twitter, to Tumblr, to everything in-between, people are involved with and on social media. In light of this, social media serves as a great platform for users and advocates to get the word out about issues that they are passionate about. Through this project, I have learned that grassroots advocates fighting the school-to-prison pipeline are doing exactly that. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages, social media advocates have been able to get people talking about and involved with this huge issue. Advocates are using these sites to shares news and facts about the problem, to invite viewers to events discussing and addressing the problem, to share research about the problem and research-based alternatives to current disciplinary practices, and to connect viewers with other campaigns and users fighting the problem. By using social media, grassroots advocates can enhance their impact by disseminating information about their issue of interest to wide swaths of people. With more people aware and talking about the issue, grassroots advocates can build a broader base of supporters and movers seeking change.

Ultimately, this project has given me hope for the future of the urban public education system. Throughout this course, we have learned about the many problems, like the school-to-prison pipeline, that the institution of urban education faces. Yet, we have also learned about the power of social movements and the change that can be made when groups of people come together, rallied behind a common goal. With passion, persistence, tenacity, organization, and the ability to connect with other organizers, grassroots groups fighting the various problems of urban public education can be that social movement that enacts big change. Moreover, social media can prove to be a powerful tool for grassroots organizers, as it allows advocates to reach a wider audience and to potentially build a wider support base. Additionally, social media provides another avenue for advocates to link up with other organizers and campaigns that are fighting for similar causes. With grassroots advocates rallying on the ground, as well as in the social media sphere, the potential for large social change is huge.

This project has convinced me that social change for better urban public education can and will happen. At the end of the day, the goal of these organizers is the same: to create an urban public education system that provides every student with the opportunities and education they deserve and need to succeed in this world. I have faith that, together, these grassroots advocates can achieve just that.